KARAKAS: “I want to be a palmero and go there, ”sings“ palmers, ”who for a few days gather palm branches in a national park bordering Caracas to donate them to believers on Palm Sunday after a procession that has gathered thousands of people.
This tradition, which has existed for more than 250 years, is included in the UNESCO Register of Good Safety Practices and aims to become a world heritage site.
On Saturday, greetings and applause from thousands of people traveling through the luxurious Chacao district, “palmers” dirty and tired, leave Waraira Repano Park carrying palm trees to join San Jose Church, where the Palm Mass is taking place. About 2,000 people gathered for a religious procession on Sunday.
As tradition requires, palm-harvested branches are distributed free of charge.
“We cry when we return the branches. It’s incomparable,” explains carpenter Carlos Gonzalez (37).
The pastor of the parish then asked the faithful to look for branches in the mountains, promising that when the disease disappeared, such a practice would be perpetuated …
On Wednesday, at 1:30, Carlos and Alvaro Porras, 36, walk deep into the woods with half a hundred young people. Four kilometers according to the program, but almost 1000 m high before the camp.
The endangered species of Caroxylum Carifarum, which has an exclusive permit to harvest palms, are scattered in the national park.
Palmeritos, Santiago Coriat and Joseph Rincon, both 12, range in fear and excitement. “I want to, but I’m a little excited. This is the first time,” says Santiago, carrying a backpack with a “budaré” (a plate for cooking corn pancakes) attached to it.
Alvaro and Carlos carry 60 kg on their backs. Food and equipment … Not to mention the “vitamins”, rum and brandy.
The light of the city we are looking at illuminates the steep path. At first, in many words, they focus on effort. Conversations fade.
“It’s hard to climb, but it’s best for believers to go down the branches,” says Alvaro.
At seven o’clock, the camp finally arrives and its mosquito cloud.
“There is faith, a responsibility to perpetuate tradition, but it is also a friendship. We are united at the top. We are all one,” explains Alvaro.
“+ Munecos +, the spirits of the dead + palmeros +, accompany us,” Carlos assures.
Faith and devotion, as well as parties and guard jokes, are on the adventure menu when there are no women. “What happens on the mountain stays on the mountain,” blows a + palmer.
+ Palmeros + stretches across the forest, sometimes climbing steep walls in four …
But the search owes nothing to chance, they know the areas where they sow palms every year.
In the past, searches and fellings were done randomly, and palm trees almost disappeared.
“We are + palmer + 365 days a year. We sow, we clean the mountain. We do operations in other parks, squares, schools. We return to nature what it gives us,” Álvaro explains.
Alvaro and Carlos teach young people how to remove the central branch of each tree to keep it alive. Thus Santiago and Joseph are “baptized.”
“I would like my peers to teach young people. Because (the forest) is our lungs, ”comments José Leon Garcia, 90, the oldest palmer with the inscription“ Mountain from 1939 ”. This year, he only took the funicular.
On Saturday, after two new nights on Mount Palmeros, some wear rosaries around their necks and branches down. For many, it is a kind of “cross station”.
“It simply came to our notice then. It doesn’t matter, the pain is tired, ”sums up Jean-Paul Blanco, a tattoo artist.
With wind orchestras and fireworks, the palmers march through the city, especially through the working-class district of Pedregal, where they usually come from.
The tradition of this practice is also the history of this area in Chacao, a luxury area with its residences and luxury buildings.
Real estate pressures are strong, but Alvaro swears that a neighborhood of several hundred people will never go away: “Pedregal is a big family. Every neighbor has a common ancestor. The family strives to preserve this heritage.”
At 16:00 they arrive at the church where the palm trees are blessed and then placed in the parish house. The end of the adventure.
Fatigue and emotions mix. Palmeros hugs, shouts, kisses, cries, laughs, sings. “Mission completed!”
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